No, not the drink made with brandy or whiskey, but the place on the square in Madison. For the next, honestly, I don't know how long, The Old Fashioned has on tap every brewery available in the state of Wisconsin. How f'ing awesome is that? Calumet - not usually available outside of a 30 mile radius of Chilton? Check. In fact, as of Tuesday night, they had already run out of Calumet's brown ale and only had the Total Eclipse, a dark imperial schwarz-ish sort of thing that is amazingly rich and complex. Pearl Street Brewery? Check - the Downtown Brown, Pearl Street's flagship, was the beer of the day Tuesday. Red Eye Brewing Co. a brewpub in Wausau? Check - the Scarlet 7, a Belgian ale brewed with caramelized figs, was on-tap. The only breweries not available were The Great Dane (if you want The Dane, it's around the corner!) and Stonefly (we were told by staff that Stonefly doesn't brew enough to spare a keg for this event; damn you Jacob! You're going to make drive all the way to Milwaukee go on that Mustache Ride to heaven.).
Some of the breweries not currently on tap will be coming on tap later (though not the aforementioned Stone Fly or Dane) and many of the breweries are available in bottles. For instance, The Northwoods BrewPub from Eau Claire. Three beers from this brewpub are available in bottle: The Floppin' Crappie ale, the Prickly Pike Pilsner, and the award-winning Lil' Bandit Brown Ale. Who can resist a beer named "Floppin' Crappie"?! Matt ordered the Lil' Bandit. Amazingly, the Floppin' Crappie was voted Best Beer at the Sturgis Brewfest in 2004. These bikers must be immune to headaches, because after one of these bad boys, my head is killin' me. Another hint: don't bother with the glass with this one. Just drink it straight from the bottle. There was no head, it's not particularly pretty (just a hazy orangish-bronzish sort of thing) and it was way thin. The website mentions caramel and honey, and to the extent it has a flavor, that's probably as good as anything. I won't even go into the Lil' Bandit - the fact that the Lil Bandit won an award (a silver!) at the Great American Beer Fest, says more about the Beer Fest than the beer.
The reason I bring this up is because it triggered a conversation between me and the Beer Talk guys about what the point of this beer in a bottle might be? Matt and Jon suggested it was simply to sell beer. But any fermented malt beverage in a bottle and get it on a shelf and someone will buy it. Heck, someone might even like it. But, Northwoods certainly doesn't seem to be aiming for any sort of quality or artistic merit. I suppose that's a fine enough reason - Americans, Wisconsin-ites, drink a lot beer that doesn't really aim for any quality or artistic merit. Take, for example, Miller or Budweiser or Busch Light or Keystone Ice.
But the weirder thing is that this is from a brewpub. Why is it in a bottle? Is there really enough demand for this beer (and the brown and the pils) to bottle it?! If so, who is buying it? Eau Claire is rich with bottled beer options - Rush River, Leinie's, Black River Falls, Viking, and now Surly, and countless others? Who, other than those who like the name "Floppin' Crappie", are buying a twelve-pack of this? Even to go fishing. For crappie. At the brewpub at least you have the "novelty" of being straight from the source.
I can understand the whole "Northwoods" thing. Hunting, fishing, snowmobiling; or rather huntin', fishin', snowmobilin', drinkin', abusin' tourists. I get that. Setting up a brewpub is a great way to corral that culture into an easy money-machine. Minocqua Brewing Co. does a great job of this, and their beers are great. Shipwrecked, in Door County, while another one that inexplicably bottles, is fine. But leave this stuff at the brewpub; there is no need to take home a bottle of it. Some free advice to anyone traveling to the Northwoods - it never tastes as good here as it does there.
And I don't mean to be mean to Northwoods, specifically, I just happened to be drinking a Northwoods Floppin' Crappie. My point is that there are very few brewpubs where it's necessary to get beer to go. Growlers are fine, but, really, isn't the point of a brewpub to be neighborhood hangout? Even some place like Grumpy Troll or Delafield or Riverside or Titletown. Their beers are good, heck, some of them are great, but so are their restaurants. Unless there is some terrific demand, it seems to me that the beer serves its purpose far better at the pub than on a shelf.
I don't know. Maybe I'm hypocritical. I don't have a problem with Ale Asylum. They're a bottling brewpub. And how do you differentiate Northwoods from something, like, say, Bear Republic in California or Goose Island in Chicago where they started as brewpubs and became bottling breweries? I don't know, maybe I'll buy another Floppin' Crappie and do a side-by-side comparison with the Hop Rod Rye.